Errors of the Christian Religion (1832) | G. W. M. Reynolds

George W.M. Reynolds regularly railed against the abuses and corruption committed by the established church throughout his literary career. The Errors of the Christian Religion Exposed was Reynolds’s earliest published work. It was printed in 1832 by Richard Carlile, a publisher who made cheap copies of Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (1791–92) for sale. In this tract Reynolds professed his adherence to the creed of deism, as Paine outlined it in The Age of Reason (1794). Its basic tenets hold that while God exists he does not interfere in mankind’s daily life and he never makes ‘revelations’ to them. It was the next best thing to atheism in the era before Darwin’s Origin of Species. This tract has been transcribed by Stephen Basdeo.

Title page to G.W.M. Reynolds Errors of the Christian Religion

The Errors of the Christian Religion Exposed: By a Comparison of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke

It is the duty of every man, as far as his ability extends, to detect and expose delusion and error. He that believes in the story of Christ is an infidel to God.—Thomas Paine


A caricature of Reynolds in 1848: A Republican and an Atheist

Whenever I argue with any one on the truth or fallacy of revealed religion, his universal answer is, “See how the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the New!”[1] Setting aside the fact that the New Testament was made to fit with certain expressions of the Old, setting aside this evident and positive conclusion—there are no prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Christ, his apostles, his sufferings, or his divinity. I am not ashamed to own that it was the Age of Reason that first opened my eyes to the errors in which for seventeen years I have hitherto lived regarding my God; and having avowed this, I am well aware the remark many people will make when they peruse this volume:

“Oh! that infamous Thomas Paine—his frivolous and unfounded work has turned the youth’s brain.”

But no; I defy any living soul to refute Paine’s arguments. I have read answers to them, and attempts at refutation; but none succeed—all sink to the ground.

To prove, therefore, that there never were such things as prophecies of Jesus Christ, I shall use the same arguments with regard to one passage in Isaiah, which is called a prophecy, as are to be found in the Age of Reason; albeit, there is one verse in Isaiah which I shall insert, and which seems to have escaped Mr. Paine’s notice, more conclusive than any other. Mr. Paine has fully and evidently proved the truth of what he affirms; but this single verse, which will be found in its place, must dispel the doubts of the most sceptical. One of the chief paragraphs, called prophecies, in all the Bible, and upon which the basis of the Christian religion chiefly seems to rest, is this verse of Isaiah, “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” In order to prove that this is no prophecy, I shall relate the whole story to which it alludes, and of which it forms not only a part, but also a principal and indispensable concomitant, in my own language, instead of the quaint style of the Old Testament. And if any ask why I do this, considering it is but a reiteration of what Mr. Paine has already said, my answer is, Because so many have a foolish horror of admitting that Author’s books into their houses, his correct ideas on the score of religion are seldom known; therefore I take upon myself to borrow his sentiments in this instance, and prove satisfactorily that the passage in Isaiah, which for centuries has been called a prophecy, of Jesus Christ is no more a prophecy than the words in this book are prophecies.

At [the] time [when] Ahaz was king of Judah,[2] two other sovereigns, Rezin, of Syria, and Pekah, of Israel, led their armies against Jerusalem, to make war with Ahaz. And when it was told to the king of Judah that the monarchs of Syria and Israel had leagued together against him, he and all his people were moved with anticipations of sorrow and destruction, notwithstanding that hitherto Rezin and Pekah had not prevailed in their hostile attempts. It was in this situation of affairs, that Isaiah pretends to have received the word of God to this purpose:

That Ahaz was to take heed and be quiet, and not to be intimidated by the fierce anger of his two mighty opponents, for God would not suffer their machinations to prevail, and moreover, that in threescore and five years Israel should be broken.

Now the capital of Syria was Damascus, and of Ephraim was Samaria. Isaiah now desires Ahaz to ask a sign, that is, some token of the fulfilment of the above prophecy, which must take place almost immediately, to convince Ahaz of the truth of what Isaiah had spoken. For instance, to apply a parallel case: if I say to my reader,—There shall be a great earthquake next year in England,—he will naturally ask me how I know it. Then if I say to him,—I will give you a sign; that is, St. Paul’s cathedral shall fall down;—and if this latter prophecy be fulfilled, my reader will believe the other. But in order-to make him credit the first, the cathedral must fall down almost immediately, that is, within the year; for it would be ridiculous in me to say,—I will give you a sign: behold, the cathedral shall fall down a hundred years hence;—as in that case the thing would happen before the sign which was to prove that thing true. I shall apply this episode more immediately anon.

But to continue with the history. After some little delay on the part of Ahaz in asking a sign, Isaiah gives him one, which is this:

“Behold, O king, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.[3] Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know how to refuse the evil and choose the good. And this is the sign, O king, whereby you may know that what I have said is true. Before this child shall know to refuse evil and choose what is good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.”

Therefore, as I exemplified in my episode above, this child must be born almost immediately, to convince Ahaz of Isaiah’s veracity—at all events, during Ahaz’ life-time. If it were not to be born for centuries (as Christ was not), how ridiculous (as my little parallel tale exhibits) would be the sign! But, reader, mark how ends this paragraph of the Old Testament, which Christians twist into a prophecy of Jesus!

Isaiah’s wife, called by him the prophetess, conceives and bears a son, who is called Maher-shabal-hash-baz; and Isaiah then says,

“Before this child can cry ‘My father, or My mother,’ the prediction shall be accomplished in favour of Ahaz, and the riches of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.”

There, then, was the sign that  was given to Ahaz, and I hope my reader sees the truth of the story; for I again repeat, how ridiculous it would have been for Isaiah to give Ahaz a sign that was not to have been fulfilled for hundreds of years. And this is called a prophecy of the man, Jesus Christ!!!

But, to make this still more positive and self-evident, Isaiah himself says, chap. viii. verse 18,

“Behold I, and the children which the Lord hath given me, are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Sion!”

Having thus clearly shown on what slender basis the Christian religion is founded, it remains to be proved that Isaiah was not such a fool nor such an ignorant wretch (if there ever lived such a man) as to give Ahaz a sign, which could not convince Ahaz of the truth of what the Lord had spoken.

In the thirty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, Hezekiah is represented as sick unto death, and the Lord is represented as uncertain and vacillating with regard to the day of that monarch’s ending his earthly career. However, to pass over this inconsistency, Isaiah is sent subsequently to tell Hezekiah he shall live fifteen years, and be delivered from his enemies; and the Lord gives Hezekiah a sign for the truth of this declaration, which Isaiah thus affirms:

“And this shall be a sign for thee, to prove that the Lord ” will do even as he hath said. Behold, the sun shall go ten degrees backwards!”

And immediately after the sun retrograded the appointed space. Here, then, was a proper sign given (supposing the whole to be true); and it happened before the thing to be proved true by it, happened. In the same way was the sign to Ahaz, did not Christian authors and philosophers apply it to their own construction, and call it a prophecy. This last anecdote then of Isaiah proves him to have been a man of sense with regard to his signs.

In the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, the following verses are called prophecies, as I find by the heads of events at the beginning of the chapter.

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare it accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double of all her sins.”

And this is called a prophecy concerning the promulgation of the gospel, when it does not even accord with what Christ himself is represented to say to Jerusalem in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, and at the thirty-seventh verse, viz.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! behold your house is left unto you desolate!”

And again, in Luke, chap. xxi, verse 22:

“For these be the days of vengeance, that all things that are written may be fulfilled!”

But if those words of Isaiah above quoted be prophecy, anything may be a prophecy. Nevertheless, Isaiah never meant them for a prophecy, but represents God as publishing peace to Jerusalem, and alluding to the past iniquities and sorrows of Israel before Isaiah’s time. The whole of this chapter is called by theologians prophetic; and if it be, then the predictions were not fulfilled in the person of Christ, for in the tenth verse we have:

“Behold! the Lord your God will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him.”

If this allude to Jesus, it is false. Christ came weak and powerless, with regard to ruling or to kingdom; and, as we see by the men called evangelists, often obliged to hide himself—always supposing, in the case of arguments like these, that there was such a man as Jesus Christ. But the whole of this chapter of Isaiah relates to anything rather than to Christ and his apostles; it is of that ambiguous nature that anything may be applied to it, and I can see nothing prophetic in it myself, and I defy the greatest theologian that ever lived to imagine it predictive, without a great stretch of fancy and opinion.

Again, in taking a superficial view of Isaiah, the verses at the beginning of the sixty-first chapter strike me, because they are perverted to a prophecy of Jesus Christ.

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me: because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken heart to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God: to comfort all that mourn: to appoint unto them that mourn in Sion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”

This cannot allude to Christ, because immediately after Isaiah says

“I will greatly rejoice in my Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my Lord; for he hath clothed me with salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with jewels.”

Isaiah in all this chapter is speaking of himself; for Christ, according to the character given of him by the men called evangelists, could not say this last sentence. How could one, who was always righteous from the beginning of time, say,

“I thank God for my salvation”?

which implies the salvation of a mortal once wicked like other men. Or how could Christ (always supposing there to have lived such a man) thank God for clothing him with the robe of righteousness? for as he was God himself, he must always have worn it. These inconsistencies prove this last sentence of the above quotation not to allude to Christ. Therefore it must mean Isaiah—at all events, not Jesus; and the first three verses of the above quotation are evidently continuations of those verses I quoted from the fortieth chapter.

Then in the sixty-second chapter, the author of this book, called Isaiah, still runs on in the same wild strain, which it is easy for one, who is not blinded by the gross absurdities of the Christian Church, to see has no allusion to anything regarding Christ—no prophecy of such a being. And in the sixty-third chapter, the character of the mighty person coming from Edom is quite at variance with that of Christ in the books called Gospels, who was meek and holy. In the writings of Matthew or Luke, Christ never says anything half so vindictive or inconsistent with the disposition of a merciful Saviour, as this:

“I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment: for the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come: my own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.”

These are the unjust and vindictive sentiments of a fire-breathing conqueror, travelling with a power mighty to do much, rather than the bland and merciful words of a meek and compassionate Redeemer, who would cry to his Father,

“Lord, forgive them, they know not what they do!”

Christ had better have stayed in Heaven, than to have come down to commit such havoc amongst the souls of men. Here we have the words of a warrior, furious in his displeasure, and gloating on the ideas of an awful revenge; entirely inconsistent with the merciful and pitying disposition of Christ, as he is represented in the volume entitled the Gospel. To whom these verses relate I know not, and care as little; since it is evident they do not relate to Christ. And how can from the tenth to the fifteenth verses be called “Christ’s mercy towards his Church;” when they not only speak of what had been done at the time they were written, and not of what should be done, but also evidently relate to God’s mercy to the children of Israel, as is represented in the Pentateuch, &c.? But anything does for a prediction with Christian theologians. All the history of Tom Thumb can be twisted into prophecies—at least, it can be made typical. When Isaiah expressly says,

“I will mention the loving-kindnesses of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath done towards the house of Israel;” (verse 7)

—yet this is made a reference to Christ’s mercy towards his church! Cannot the reader see how it applies to the mercies of God towards Israel, and no more to Christ’s church than it does to me? But notwithstanding this and other evidence against the truth of revealed religion—notwithstanding the voice of reason is loud in its cries against it—and notwithstanding the palpable obscurities, inconsistencies, and contradictions incident to the Bible,—sages and philosophers will yet reason against common sense, and will palm upon the world a book of lies, calling it by the holy and sacred name of the WORD OF GOD.

I am now eighteen years old, and till within this year have been a firm believer in Christianity. My father and my mother, both of whom are now dead, were also of the same creed, and the whole of my surviving relatives also are what they call Christians. About a year ago I began to be sceptical. People may wonder how I came to muse on this matter so young, and with so little experience; but truth may be descried from fallacy even by a youth, and an infant child can distinguish the luminous mid-day from the deep shades of night. When I first began to grow sceptical with regard to revealed religion, I read Paley’s Evidences, Tomlin’s Theology, Hugo Grotius, and many other works over again attentively. All these, however, only served to convince me that the Christian creed and system must rest on a very brittle foundation, if they wanted such elaborate and numerous works to support them. About six months ago I perused the Age of Reason; and this entirely opened my eyes to the errors in which I had so lately trodden. Had I known of the inconsistencies and false interpretations of many passages in the Bible before this period, I should have also embraced the creed of Deism before; but it is only when we read, reason, and compare, that we find, the Old and New Testament to be false. And the reason of this long blindness is thus. We are brought up in the Christian creed, and we are taught to believe it as true with our earliest impressions. Thus we receive the impression without examining what it is we receive. We go to church and hear the Bible read, and it strikes us as marvellous, beautiful in its poetry, and excellent in its morality. Farther than this we think little of it. But after we come (and few there be that do!) seriously to reflect upon what is called the word of God, we imagine it should be consistent and connective. But the Old Testament agrees not with itself, nor with the New! Paragraphs are called prophecies, and anecdotes types. If we extract that sentence of Isaiah, “Behold, a virgin,” &c., from the rest of the chapter, it may be a prophecy. But it belongs to a history, which is defective without it, and which is dependent upon it for being understood. How little faith should be put in a history, that, told by different authors, is totally discrepant one from the other! And that the history of Christ varies in its dates, its anecdotes, and its localities, as related by the different evangelists (so called), I will prove shortly in my comparison of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. People will be disgusted with me for this volume—my friends will avoid me as they would an adder—and my relatives will renounce me. And why? Because I defend my God from the horrible calumnies attached to his name, and endeavour to open the eyes of the world to the errors they have so long imbibed.

Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason

And here I may take the opportunity of observing something about the clergy of the Protestant Church. Are they humble like their pretended master? Are they willing to sell all and give to the poor? And will they deny themselves the luxuries of life for the sake of an immortal crown of glory? Do they clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and give lodging to the poor? Will they be content to suffer ignominy and reproach in the cause of their creed; and will they reject all thoughts of worldly ambition, that their hopes of a reward in heaven may be the more sure? I will ask, who have more pride than the high beneficed clergy of the Protestant Church? Who are more addicted to the luxuries and sensualities of life than the ministers of God? They are supposed to renounce the follies and vanities of this world, in obedience to the commands of their eternal God, and Saviour, and Redeemer; and, lo! they commit fornication, they indulge in luxury and lasciviousness. They take thought of tomorrow, what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and what they shall put on. Pride bids them scorn the humble and the poor; and Ambition whispers its pleasing tales and prospective visions with fascinating softness not vainly in their ears! They distrain the poor for their tithes, and accept the luxuries of the high and the mighty, be these great men atheists, deists, or sinners. They will refuse the sacrament to a prostitute, because she is poor—but they will cringe and bow when the pensioned harlot of the great appears at their altar. Vain were it for me to expose the vices and the follies of the church, when a certain blindness, wilful or assumed, seems to veil the eyes of the nation, and to deceive the minds of myriads. I know a clergyman who refused the sacrament to a poor woman, because he knew her to have been incontinent; and a few weeks after came a lady of rank to his church, who received gold for her prostitution, and whose whoredom was in the mouths of hundreds, and she knelt at the footstool of God (to use the language of the church) and received the sacrament and the supper of the Lord (as it is called), while the minister knew that she was eating and drinking damnation to herself.

Truth in England, I am sorry to say, is libel—and the greater the truth, the greater the libel. But as I have already extended my preface beyond the limits I had proposed to myself when first setting off, I shall hastily conclude it, and commence my comparison of the books, called Gospels, written by Matthew and Luke.

Listen, then, ye who have so long trodden in the mazes of darkness, in the vain anticipations of future rewards through a Redeemer’s mercy—listen to the arguments of one who would lend his small endeavours to lead ye to the ways of truth.


Comparison of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke

The gospel, which is ascribed by the Christian church to a man called St. Matthew, opens with the genealogy of Jesus Christ: and in the third chapter of that according to St. Luke, we have another genealogy given us of the same man. If in a court of justice there were two witnesses speaking in favour of an accused person, the instant these witnesses evidently and palpably disagreed, their stories would be considered of no avail, and they would be naturally deemed false and perjured men. But here we have two writers, who pretend to be inspired by God, and to be intimately acquainted and connected with the subject of their history, and with all the affairs of the man they treat of—here, I say, we have two authors disagreeing in the very ancestry of the man they worship, adore, and know so thoroughly. We might pardon and overlook a mistake many generations back, but the name of Christ’s very grandfather by his father’s side is differently mentioned. Can we then receive the testimony of such witnesses as these? Can we be so ignorant and so blind as to credit the gross impositions and absurdities of what is called the Word of God? I thank the Almighty, whom I believe in, the one and only God, that He has opened mine eyes to the true faith, and to the pure and consistent creed of Deism. But in order to exemplify the disagreement between Matthew and Luke, I shall here set down a regular list of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, as copied from each evangelist, and as directly differing one from the other. Christian reader, can you mark this, and still believe?

Genealogy according to Matthew  Genealogy according to Luke  

Nathan and Solomon were certainly both sons of David, as we find by chap. iii. verse 6, of Chronicles; but Joseph could not have been the son of Jacob and of Heli: besides which, Luke makes forty-three generations from David to Jesus Christ, and Matthew only twenty-eight. Whence, then, could arise this palpable error? Such evidence being individually given by the evangelists in a court of justice would damn them both. One may be right (if there ever were such men), we know not which: at all events, the other is wrong: one is evidently wrong, and if such a material thing as the genealogy of Christ be disputed and defective, we have no right to believe any less material thing. This proves, moreover, that when Matthew and Luke sate down to compose their books of inconsistencies and falsehoods, they did not do so in concert, and probably one did not know that another history existed at what time he composed his, else mutual reference would have set aside the discrepancies everywhere apparent. My opinion is, that the anecdotes told of Christ were for some time handed down by oral tradition, in the same way as we receive many improbable stories about men who never lived, as for instance, Jack the Giant-killer, or the Baron Munchausen; but these last personages’ achievements have been digested into written volumes, as also at last were the anecdotes narrated of Christ. The author of Munchausen has much more sense than all the Evangelists put together. He and they wrote a book of marvels and lies—his are amusing and connected, theirs are not: he does not wish posterity to believe his anecdotes—but they did. And here in its place I should remark, that all through this dissertation I suppose Matthew and Luke to have written the gospels which bear their name: my treatise does not question (though it might) the names of the authors, but the truth of their books. But to proceed with my comparison. In speaking of the manner of the birth of Christ, Matthew says,

“When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost,”

plainly indicating that she was with child before they were married, which premature pregnancy may happen to any other prostitute. And here I must stop one instant, to remark the horror of the tale—to suppose that God could leave his throne, his omnipotence, and his spiritual nature, and be tempted by a virgin to fornication and debauchery. If these be thine opinions, O Christians—if these be the ideas you have of your God—better to hang a millstone (using your own words) about your necks, and cast yourselves into the deep waters. But to proceed. Luke, in his statement, has these words,

“To a virgin espoused to a man, whose name was Joseph.”[4]

Now by the word espoused, Luke cannot mean contracted, or merely engaged; for if he did, he would naturally tell some story of how Joseph was pacified when he found he had married a pregnant woman or common prostitute, after they were married, as Matthew does. But no—he plainly indicates that Joseph and Mary were united at what time the angel visited her. Matthew indicates the contrary, and tells a qualifying story to make out the tale, and not leave us in the dark how Joseph put up with an incontinent woman. If, now-a-days, a common girl fathered her bastard child upon God, and called a company of fishermen and publicans to prove it, whose only testimony could be,

“We believe it, because we are told so,”

what would the judge and jury imagine? This trick will not pass off in these days of civilisation and education, but it did well enough for those ages of superstition and romance, and succeeding generations have consecrated the imposture.

Matthew then tells us a long and cruel story of a massacre of infants, which no history, and no contemporary author, gives any account of. Besides, Herod was not absolute—he was merely a tetrarch, that is, governing the fourth part of a kingdom, or province; and such conduct, even in those times, would have instantly caused his deposition and death. But this story is told, because it seems to fit with a sentence of Jeremiah, which sentence alludes to anything rather than to a predicted massacre of infants. Luke is entirely silent on this subject, and he contents himself with sending shepherds to adore the new-born infant. Such an event as the massacre of thousands of human beings, is not such an one as he would have past over unnoticed, particularly as it was his interest to make as many sentences in the Old Testament seem to fit with the New as he could. This still farther proves that the evangelists wrote from oral tradition—as one heard a supplementary anecdote which another did not. Luke’s history is laboured, and he would scarcely have relinquished so favourable an opportunity of adding so great and awful an event. Besides all which, a man in writing a history, always affixes things to it which are in people’s memories, or within the immediate knowledge of people then contemporarily alive, to render it more probable and definitive; and as such an event as this universal massacre of the infants would have been fresh in every body’s recollection at the time Luke wrote his gospel, he would not thus have omitted it. Neither of the other evangelists mention this anecdote, therefore Matthew is the father of it; and I am confident it is of spurious extraction. Let others believe this and the like stories if they will be blind, I again thank God, that he has given me sense and reason enough to perceive their fallacy: and my only prayer now is, that he will confer the same blessings on all other living creatures. In the 17th verse, Matthew says,

“But when Herod was dead, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Arise, and take the young child and its mother, and go into the land of Israel; for they be dead which sought the young child’s life.”

But in Luke we find Herod still alive when Christ was thirty years old, and afterwards: see chap. iii. verse 19, and chap. ix. verse 7. Neither, could it be another Herod, for Matthew expressly says that Archelaus succeeded Herod the tetrarch; and Luke affirms that at what time John came baptising in the wilderness, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee.—chap. iii. verse 1. My reader sees that I am particular in giving chapter and verse for what I say: and I defy sophist and theologian to confute these arguments.

With regard to the story of John Baptist, Matthew and Luke agree pretty well: and they both conclude with the same nonsense, representing their God in the light of an ogre or fairy, who change themselves into cats, doves, and lions, as it suits them. Can anything be more repugnant to a rational idea of the Almighty, than his descent in the form of a dove? as if God would condescend to shift his spiritual powers, and play juggling tricks with himself in order to amuse an assembled multitude of idlers and fools. Is it consistent, I ask ye, O Christians, for one moment to suppose that the Almighty would come upon earth, as a conjuror, in the shape of a dove? By the bye, I may here add, as a supplementary note to this anecdote of the evangelists, that it was fortunate guns were not invented then, for certainly their pigeon would have been served up in a pie.

With regard to the temptation of Christ by the prince of hell, Matthew and Luke do not agree in the order wherein the events happened. Now to many this may appear a ridiculous desire in me to find out as many petty and immaterial faults as I can; but I only ask, would not two historians, who lived at the same time, and who were intimately acquainted, as they tell us, with the subject of their annals, both exactly agree in this matter, as well as all others; particularly as the rate at which Jesus travelled from mountains to pinnacles of temples was so exceedingly swift. The idea of the Devil flying away with a God!!! Matthew represents the flight to the pinnacle as the second event, but Luke makes it the third. This then is an incongruity and inconsistency which ought not to exist in a book which people absurdly call


And here I may ask, what possible meaning there can be in that sentence which Matthew has extracted from one of the books called Prophets, and which immediately follows this singular history of the temptation? The passage to which I allude is this,

“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, the land of Zebulun and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.”

As if I were to say,

“The land of Kent, and the land of Hampshire, by the way of the sea, beyond Thames, Middlesex of the English.”

Thomas Paine has exposed the imposition of this passage; but as his works, as I have afore said, are seldom read, or kept in houses or libraries, I will place this sentence properly as he has placed it. Matthew extracts it from Isaiah, chap. ix. verse 1; which stands thus:

[“Nevertheless, the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun] and the land of Nephthali, [and afterwards did more grievously afflict her] by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, [in] Galilee of the nations.”

And out of this verse, in order to apply it to his own use, has Matthew scratched an unintelligible sentence, circumscribed to a few names jumbled together in a heap, and called a prophecy. People are so accustomed to read the Bible and believe it, be-cause they are told it is true, that they do not think of examining each verse separately; for I ask them, what sense exists in my parallel application of English names above? And therefore, in the verse, as it is quoted by Matthew, there is no more sense. A common geography may be called a prophecy of Wellington, because it has in its pages the names of the towns which Wellington took, and of the plains where that illustrious hero fought for the honour of his country. Were it my object in this treatise to examine the prophecies, I might easily prove them as undeservedly bearing the names, as Mr. Paine has already exposed them. My object in writing this is to show where Matthew and Luke are at variance, and thence to come to the conclusion that neither are to be believed; consequently the whole system of the Christian church is false; for if out of evidence on a trial, the least tittle be untrue, all the rest falls to the ground. Sophists and theologians, to establish their own ends, have so long deceived nations and people with their plausible writings, and apparent explanations of religious doctrines which admit of many meanings, that it is now time for those, who can see the errors abundant in such a system, to expose these absurdities and falsehoods, and to redeem some few at least from the horrible ideas they entertain of their God, who attribute to the Almighty power the capability of seducing, and openly avowing his seduction, of a virgin engaged to be married, or of a married woman (it matters not—the crime and impossibility remain the same); and who imagine their omnipotent Creator pushed to such an extremity, that he can do nothing to save mankind without sending his son to suffer upon the cross. If this be true, then God is dependent on a higher power still, which power signified to him the necessity of the alternative—

“you must either sacrifice your son, or the world must be irrecoverably destroyed, and condemned.”

And God, in obedience to this higher power, chose the alternative of crucifying his son. But we know that there is no higher power than God, and therefore this supposition is ridiculous—and yet the story of the sacrifice of Christ depends upon this supposition, and is also ridiculous. But Christians (to carry my argument still further) say that Christ is God—that he is part of God—that he is one of the three which are in one—consequently he is the one God. Now if he were separated from God, there would be two, and this is opposite to the Christian creed. But if the son then really died upon the cross, then God died, for God is the son, and the son is God. Therefore God himself came down from heaven, and died upon a cross, and was deceased for three days—God died for three days—the God of heaven and earth ceased to exist: what then became of the whole system of worlds?—who directed, who governed the luminous bodies and celestial globes with which the heavens teem? Either God died, or there are two Gods, that is, God and the Son: the first is impossible, and the last is what even Christians themselves deny, and anything improbable, generally gains credit with them, therefore neither are true.

After relating anecdotes which Matthew entirely leaves out, Luke mentions one, where Jesus casts out an unclean spirit, chap. iv. verse 33. This the other evangelist also leaves out, notwithstanding that, according to Luke, in consequence of it,

“The fame of Jesus went out into every place of the country round about.”

It then appears, to follow Luke still further, that immediately after the miracle, Christ went into Simon’s house, and healed Peter’s wife’s mother, who was sick of a fever. But antecedent to this last miracle, which Matthew does mention, Matthew represents Jesus as coming down from a mountain, healing a leper, and raising a centurion’s servant from a bed of sickness, which story is not mentioned by Luke till ch.9 p. vii., which is the same thing with regard to the present time as if it were not mentioned at all: and it is immediately after all this that he performed the miracle in Peter’s house.

If I were to mention a man, who performed some mighty feat at a particular house, and added that this man went from a church immediately to this house; and if afterwards another historian represented him coming straight from a distant mountain, and doing two or three other marvellous things in his way, which must not only have taken up his time considerably, but also have greatly added to .his fame; if such as this happened, I say, would future ages put much confidence in either of our stories? Would they not unanimously cry out,

“We are not obliged to believe this, for the two authors detail it differently.”

And were not the intervening miracles great enough for Luke to record in their place? Matthew tells a story Luke leaves out, and vice versa, and yet these histories are evidently not intended to be continuations or supplementary to each other, because both sometimes relate the same stories in the same style, and in almost the same language,—as for instance, the words of John Baptist, and the words in the temptation. This then still further proves that the whole anecdotes were written from oral tradition—as, when each evangelist heard them, he arranged them as he liked,—of course, taking care to put the birth first, and the crucifixion last.

The story that Matthew next states is about the obedience of the winds to the words of Christ, and then regarding the herd of swine. This tale is also told by Luke, but the chronology of the two is totally different. Many events had intervened between the miracle in Peter’s house, and this one according to Luke, but none according to Matthew, unless the general sentence in chap. viii. verse 16, denote any—but this sentence is also to be found in Luke, chap. iv. verse 40. Moreover, with regard to the miracle of the swine, Matthew mentions two men, and Luke but one, from whom the devils were expelled. Would these inconsistencies exist if the whole were true? Would there be this disagreement, if the event were fact? No! it is the same thing as if I were to write another history of Munchausen, and transpose the events—relinquishing some, and adding others. The whole basis of the Christian Religion is not firmer than that of the book above-mentioned; and the New Testament is quite as ridiculous, but not half so interesting in its list of miracles and gross absurdities. Besides, was it consistent with Christ’s humane character to cause the death of the harmless swine? Could his power have not laid the devils in the Red Sea, if he had any power, and if there were any devils? Christians, who believe such impieties and falsehoods, are greater pigs than those swine.

Without remarking at length from henceforth, how the events are transposed (for I have given sufficient proof of the inaccuracy of the chronology already), and without relating elaborately what tales are narrated by one, and omitted by the other, I shall merely compare parallel passages, and make my remarks as heretofore. For be it known, that it is no digression of mine to make my comments upon the Christian Religion in general, as well as to compare the two books called Gospels, as the nature of the work naturally leads me to do so: and as I wish all who read it, to be thoroughly convinced of the imposition that has for eighteen hundred years been put upon the world. Nor do I say this alone on mine own authority; for how many are there who are actually Deists in their hearts, and have not the courage to avow it. But I—in the face of all men, in opposition to the creed which my late revered parents professed and taught me—I am not timid nor backward in expressing my sentiments on so awful a subject; for I feel it to be a duty I owe myself and others. I have therefore conspicuously affixed my name to the first page of this volume; and I send it out into the world, reckless of the critic’s gaze and fearless of the Christian’s scorn; without any apprehension of refutation to the arguments herein used, and with a consciousness of doing what can be justified. I am not ashamed of the creed I profess—for my friends and intimate relatives (were they appealed to) would confirm this declaration, in avowing the frequency and eagerness of my discussions with them on the subject. If any one found out, and could prove by comparison, that the History of Rome was entirely false and unfounded, would he not do it? And if can do the same by the New Testament, may I not also do it? I deduce my arguments entirely from the book itself—I compare two of the histories of Christ together, and mark how discrepant, how inconsistent, and absurd they are. Impiety, impossibility, mystery, and nonsense are everywhere evident and apparent in these histories. And yet we are told that they are not only the Word of God, but that the men also who wrote them were inspired. This then brings us to the conclusion:


According to Matthew, chap. xi. verse 1, Jesus now sends out his disciples to preach in the world. While these were absent, performing miracles, healing sicknesses, &c. &c., this evangelist goes on to say,

“that John heard in prison the works of Christ, and sent two of his disciples to say unto him, art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”[5]

This contradicts a former part of the Gospel (so called), where chap. iii. verse 13, Jesus comes from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized.” John here recognizes the promised Messiah, and says

“I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?”

And also in the gospel of the evangelist John, the Baptist says these words, seeing Jesus coming unto him,

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world; this is he of whom I said, after me cometh a man that is preferred before me. And I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore came I baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the spirit descending from heaven like adore, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not; but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the spirit descending and remaining upon him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God.”

How many contradictions have we here! between Matthew and himself, and between Matthew and John. Matthew, as I have already shown, makes out that John knew Jesus the moment he saw him—before the dove came down; and John makes out that the Baptist did not know Jesus before the descension of the spirit. Moreover, Matthew afterwards represents John Baptist as ignorant that this was the Christ (chap. xi. verse 3), and again the evangelist John would infer that the Baptist first knew Christ by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God,” &c., and then denied his knowledge of him, till the descent of the spirit convinced John who Christ was, and which was he.[6]

And what does Luke say?—In chap. vii. verse 19, John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask Jesus the same question as is found in Matthew,

“Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”

But this event, according to Luke, happened before Jesus sent out his own disciples, and in Matthew it happened immediately after. But it was immediately after Christ sent out his disciples, according to Luke, that

“Herod, hearing of the things that were done, supposed that it was John (whom he had beheaded) risen from the dead,” chap. ix. verse 9.

And behold, in chap. xiv. of Matthew, Herod is again alive, notwithstanding this evangelist had killed him while Jesus was a young child in Egypt (chap. ii. verse 19); and Herod also makes the same remark concerning the re-appearance of John as is represented in Luke. Luke kills John before Christ sent out his disciples to publish the Christian faith; but Matthew makes John send his disciples to Jesus, after the above event.

Jesus must have been a certain different number of years old, when he performed each individual thing that is related of him, even supposing many to have been done on the same day; and each different miracle and event in his life must consequently bear a different date. Therefore Luke and Matthew have written without any regard to regularity, order, era, age, or date; for they merely jumble a parcel of anecdotes together, unconnected by dates, and incongruous as to the succession in which they consecutively happened, and call it a LIFE OF CHRIST. Jesus must have either sent out his disciples into the world before John’s came to him with the questions before mentioned, or he must have sent them after that inquiry was made (always in these cases supposing such people, for a moment, to have existed): when, therefore, one historian fixes to one circumstance one date, and the other historian gives this circumstance a different date, and sets it down as happening at a different period of Jesus’ life from the era mentioned by the other, the conclusion I come to is, that, supposing all these men to have existed, one is false and incorrect; and if one be so, it is no idle conjecture to suppose the rest so; and therefore the whole Christian religion is a false and base fabrication of falsehood and lies.

I will here give a parallel case to the subject that has just been discussed. Suppose Smollett and Hume are writing a history of William Wallace, for instance, and that Smollett relates his first battle to have been at Dumbarton, his second at Irvine, and his third at Falkirk. Then Hume, we can suppose, represents Falkirk first, Dumbarton second, and Irvine last. When no actual dates are affixed to every event in a man’s life, provided it know the first, the mind can imagine all the rest, at least near enough for its own convenience and use in rendering the order of each sufficiently intelligible. Therefore, to carry my parallel case still farther, I will give dates to each event there mentioned; and suppose that Smollett’s stand thus—1220, 1222, 1230. Then Hume’s events have different dates attached to them; for instance, Dumbarton, which with Smollett is 1220, is with Hume 1222, and so on. If such were the case, either Smollett or Hume must be wrong, as is here sufficiently exemplified; and it requires no stretch of fancy, and no great leap beyond the boundary of strict consistency, to apply the same case to Matthew and to Luke, which may be easily done. However, to digress for a moment, I must here observe, that I know of no other more effectual way of proving these matters, than by bringing forward parallel cases, embracing other subjects. I proceed to apply my paragraph. Suppose Jesus to have been thirty years old (Luke iii. 23) when he was baptized, thirty-one when John sent his disciples, and thirty-two when he sent out his own apostles. This is according to Luke, we may suppose. But according to Matthew, he was thirty years old when he was baptized, thirty-one when he sent out his own followers, and thirty-two when the Baptist dispatched disciples to make the afore-mentioned inquiry. Here, then, is a parallel application of my passage, self-evident, self-convincing: and I again defy all Christian theologians and casuists to refute these arguments.

The only argument they could use would be this:

“Matthew and Luke have certainly neglected order and data in their lives of Jesus Christ; but as long as we have the heads of events, and the principal particulars of his history, it signifies little about the time of his life in which each individual thing took place; and as long as the evangelists gave us these material portions, they were not nice as to the order in which they set them down. Moreover, as they are not critically particular, we should not be so.”

This could be their only reply to my argument concerning the chronology of Christ’s histories—and yet, I dare affirm, they would deem this reply decisive and convincing; and perhaps they would qualify it with a hint concerning the mysteries of Christ’s religion, and the inscrutable ways of God, which are beyond the power of mortal comprehension, circumscribed as it is, to explore satisfactorily and evidently.

Yet these very men would reject the history of Rome or Greece in the same light, placed in the same situation; but they pretend to believe in a book teeming with contradictions in chronology, in events, and in order. Why, I will ask, do the histories of Christ not agree, if they be true? Would God entrust his holy word to scraps of parchment, which did not appear consistent one with the other? Compare the genealogies of Christ one with the other, as Luke and Matthew describe them. Did God, as he dictated to each, forget the long list of names he had given to the first, and invent new ones for the pages of the second? Compare John, chap. i. verse 22, with Matthew, chap. iii. verse 13. And compare Matthew, chap. iv. verse 16, with Isaiah, chap. ix. verse 1. Is this last a prophecy? I dare say there be many who have never compared the prophecies as they are represented to be in the New Testament, with the passages from which they are taken in the Old. If so, I would advise them to do it speedily, and to assist themselves in the task by a perusal of An Examination of the Prophecies, by Thomas Paine.

How many are there, alas! far advanced in years, now tottering on the verge of the grave, standing as it were on the brink of two worlds, virtuous men and professed Christians. It is my greatest source of misery to behold these people, many of whom are gifted with sublime talents and an elegant mind, whose reasonings on all matters not relating to religion are stable and firm, whose opinions in things temporal are with me decisive and unquestionable, and whose advice in worldly affairs is sage and good—I say it is my greatest source of grief to see these venerable and worthy patriarchs about to die in all the darkness of the Christian faith, without a prospect of the shadowy clouds of imposture and absurdity being cleared away from the horizon of their days. The aim dispenses light and joy even when veiled by a misty cloud; but how much more resplendent is its blaze at what time a passing breeze disperses the thick shadows that would obscure the god of day! Oh! that it were in my power to lead these men, while the vital spark yet remains in their bodies, from the devious paths of error and absurdity to the straight road of light and truth, to the pure and untainted creed of Deism! How much happier would be their last moments, when, ere the cold hand of Death had affixed its permanent mark on their chilling features, their ideas and feelings with regard to their Almighty God were directed and implanted in the right road, and were free from the base and designing plots of churchmen and of priests! Instead of troubling themselves with sacraments and prayers to a feigned Redeemer, they would pour forth their souls to the one and only God, who would give them hope, and courage, and faith. Then, in their last moments, if they shed a tear, or if they heaved a parting sigh, the first would be in regret at the long blindness which enveloped them ere their con-version, and the latter would be expressive of a prayer to the Almighty Father, the one and only God, that he would be graciously pleased to open the eyes also of all the earth.

Matthew and Luke, however, to continue with my comparison, both agree in the pusillanimity of Christ, as appears by chap. xvi. verse 20, of the one, and by chap. ix. verse 2, of the other. After so public an annunciation (as the descent of the Holy Spirit of God in the shape of a dove, supposing for an instant this event to be true) of Christ’s heavenly extraction and celestial mission, all those parts of Judea at least must have known him, for Luke gives us to understand that there were others standing by at what time the pigeon descended; chap. iii. verse 21. Surely it was not visible to Jesus and to John alone. Besides, in Luke, chap. iv. from verse 33 to the end, the very devils themselves acknowledge Christ; and those people in the synagogue at Capernaum, chap. iv. verses 33, 34, 41, must have heard the demons cry out, or else what use was their exclamation of

“Thou, Jesus of Nazareth!”

and of

“Thou art Christ, the son of God!”

Luke and Matthew do not certainly here contradict each other, but they contradict themselves, and contradict common sense. But a man who could so alter and reduce a verse, as Matthew did, chap. iv. verse 15, could write anything, and would not be particular as long as he gained his end, which end was an imposture upon the world, of a book of absurdities. Or even if Matthew did not write the book which bears his name, and if there never lived such a man, still the foregoing remark equally applies to those who were the authors of it.

We now come to the transfiguration. Matthew begins, chap. xvii. verse 1, thus:

“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, and James, and John his brother, up into a high mountain apart.”

But Luke commences, chap. ix. verse 28, thus:

“And it came to pass, about an eight days after this,” &c.

Here both the evangelists would represent a certain time after a fixed date, because the words of Christ which immediately precede the transfiguration are the same in both books, and relating to the same event. But even an inaccuracy of two days should not be found in the WORD OF GOD, particularly as we are continually told that the men who wrote these Gospels were inspired by God. I suppose this transfiguration happened at night-time, as no one else in the world saw it, and as poor Simon Peter appears to have been so uncommonly drowsy that he could scarcely keep his eyes open. What a much more noble idea would it have been, for the evangelist to have imagined the glory of the Saviour so transcendant and insuperable, that it was too much for mortal eyes to bear! But no—this would have savoured too closely as an imitation of the story told in Heathen mythology, about Jupiter and Semele. If Christ had so transfigured himself on the top of a high mountain, why did he not let all the Jews see him? and that would have been a certain conviction to them of his divine nature. Was it not selfish and partial of Jesus to admit but three to his phantasmagorian show, when he had the distribution of the tickets for admission? particularly as he some time after rebukes his apostles for quarreling about which was the greatest, making this remark,

“He that is least among you, the same shall be great.”

But, excluding nearly all, he takes with him that prince of liars, Peter; to whom, I am certain, Jesus alluded when he said,

“The devil was the father of lies.”

The application of that verse in Matthew,[7] ch. xviii. v. 13, is not even good in a worldly point of view, much less then in a heavenly sense; for how can it be for .a moment supposed that God can have more pleasure with a man who has been half his life bad and the latter half good, than with a man who has spent every day of his existence in the world, morally, charitably, and virtuously? The idea is absurd, and only further proves the ignorance and fallacy displayed in the New Testament. Here also I may apply a parallel case. Were the King of England to make a selection of ministers out of a number collected before him, whose characters and histories he well knew, would he, O Christians, prefer men that he knew to have been half their lives dishonest and vicious, and the remaining part, up till the age when they stood before him, penitent and good,—would he prefer these to persons who had never sustained even the tainted breath of calumny without its vanishing from them as steam from a pure glass?

I now come to the miracle which Jesus performed on the blind man, or blind men (for on this point the men called evangelists differ), in his road to Jerusalem. Matthew, chap. xx., verse 29, says,

“And as they departed from Jericho, two blind men, sitting by the way-side, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, 0 Lord, thou son of David.”

But Luke writes, chap. xviii. verse 36, that

“As he came nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way-side begging.”

This, to say nothing of the number of the men healed, as it is represented by each author, an absolute contradiction with regard to the place; for Luke, in the next chapter, continues,

“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.”

Here is not only a discrepancy in the number, but also in the place; and this is the way I account for it. A verbal tradition was handed down from father to son, that

“a man, probably a great physician, called Jesus Christ, cured a person, or two people, of blindness near Jericho;”

so that when these historians, called evangelists, or whoever were the authors of the books bearing their names, came to relate it, they were not particular as to which road it happened on, so as it is represented as taking place somewhere near Jericho: in the same way I might relate a story of a circumstance happening on the road out of London towards Canterbury, and another person might relate it as taking place on the road out of London to Southampton. And, if we did so, what would be the inference all rational people would draw from this discrepancy? Why, that we never saw it at all. But still we are given to understand that Matthew and Luke attended Jesus amongst his apostles and disciples, and were probably present at this miracle (supposing one to have existed); then the conclusion we still come to is, that one of them writes an untruth; and to press the matter still further, we believe that neither ever saw it all. But here I drop any further remarks upon this pretended miracle: the inconsistency speaks for itself.

The next thing I. am led to discuss is the discrepancy that exists between the two parables that mention a future state. I mean, concerning the judgment-day in Matthew, chap. xxv. verse 31, and the story of the rich man and Lazarus, in Luke, chap. xvi. verse 19. The impression that Matthew leaves upon the mind of his reader is, that there is a general day of judgment at the end of the world,

“when the Son of Man[8] shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him;”

and that till this day the dead are in a state of nothingness: for he says,

“And before him (Jesus) shall be gathered all nations.”

But Luke leaves an idea upon the mind of him who peruses his tedious history, that immediately a man dies his soul is saved or condemned by instant judgment; for he avers, that

“the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom; and that the rich man also died, and was buried, and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment.”

Then, again, this salvation of the one and condemnation of the other are evidently proved to be before the end of the world, that is, before the world was summoned universally to the judgment-seat; because we have these words handed down to us by the same evangelist, immediately after the former quotation, at the 27th verse.

“Then said the rich man, I pray thee therefore, father Abraham, that thou wouldest send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear these; for if they will not hearken unto Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one were to rise from the dead.”

I now pass on to the denial of Jesus by Simon Peter. Matthew, in chap. xxvi. verse 69, represents that two maids, and then an indefinite number of men, accused Peter of being with Jesus of Nazareth. But Luke, chap. xxii. verse 06, says

“that a certain maid beheld him,”

and accused him first; after that, a man, to whom Peter says,

“Man, I am not”

one of Christ’s followers: and lastly a single individual, in opposition to Matthew’s number, addressed the unfortunate apostle in similar words; to whom the reply was,

“Man, I know not what thou sayest.”

Now this also leads me to consider the circumstances of Peter’s smiting off the servant’s ear. If he had done so, the Jews, who already sought the disciples of Christ, as well as Jesus himself, would have immediately recognised Peter as one, and would have presently seized him, making this outrage an excuse for putting them both to death: or, at all events, they would have brought forward his resistance to their authority as an accusation at the trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. But no—Peter gets off, nobody knows how, the ear is healed, and nothing is said of the circumstance at the judgment-seat. The excuse alone of such an outrage upon the Jewish authorities, as was committed by Peter, would have been a much better plea for  crucifying Jesus, than all the evidence which it appears the witnesses brought against him. Thus we see Luke and Matthew get their friend and fellow-impostor Peter into a scrape, but forget to tell us how he got out of it: but soon after his unfortunate adventure with Malchus, we find him following Jesus afar off. He then smells a nice warm fire, and deliberately seats himself by it, to see how the events of the day would end; and by way of a little pastime, mutters over his vocabulary of oaths and curses, denying the very Redeemer he afterwards preached for so strenuously, and perjuring himself, almost in the very presence of his God.

But to continue. Luke mentions that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod—but Matthew has entirely forgotten the circumstance. Moreover, the very superscription over the cross of Christ is differently represented; for according to Matthew it is:—


and Luke writes it,—


and here I cannot help noticing, that Luke says, “and it was about the sixth hour;” but Mark affirms it to have been the third hour, chap. xv. verse 25. Now, all the hours in those days were with the Jews or Romans universally reckoned from six o’clock; consequently, Jesus was crucified at twelve according to Luke, and at nine o’clock according to Mark.

But to drop this digression, and to continue with my comparison. Luke, in verse 33 of this chapter, says, “They crucified him, and the malefactors, one on his right hand, and the other on his left.” Then again he contradicts himself by saying, verse 39, “And one of the malefactors which were hanged,” &c.: and yet I suppose theologians will get over this, by affirming that crucifixion is hanging—but that would be a quibble. Matthew says nothing of the thief repenting,[9] and, on his conversion, being promised by Christ the joys of paradise; but he gives us to understand that both reviled him; for he says, “The thieves also cast the same in his teeth.” Such a remarkable circumstance, as a malefactor upon the cross or gibbet acknowledging Christ, consistent with the power of a God, would not have escaped Matthew’s pen, had he heard of it at the period when he wrote his book, which men call the Gospel. Neither, again, would Luke have left out that remarkable and supplicating expression of “Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani?” if he had heard it; although it is no more than what a common highwayman might sing out on the drop at the Old Bailey. What is more natural than for a sinful man to cry out at his execution, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” but it is not what a God would exclaim to a God; nor what the son of God would apply to his father, which father he formed a part, and was that father and the son too, all in one, co-equal in power. Not but what this circumstance is all of a piece with the former pusillanimity of our SAVIOUR (as he is facetiously termed); when he departed and hid himself from the Jews, at what hour they took up stones to cast at him; when he was afraid lest those who benefited by his skill in healing, should publish his fame and his powers; and when he addressed the multitude thus, who came out to take him: “Be ye come out as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I sate with you daily in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me; but this is your hour, and the hour of darkness” was not this an intercession to the multitude, as if Jesus had not found his account in being taken prisoner?

To proceed, however: Luke makes no mention of the visits and morning calls, which the ghosts of departed saints paid to divers people in the city; and I have before shown that Luke’s account is not supplementary to Matthew’s; therefore, the inference I draw from the omission of this very important event is, that our friend Luke never had it in his power to mention it—and this for a capital reason—because he had never heard of it.

I now come to the last chapters of these books of deceptions and lies, each commencing with the resurrection. Now Jesus had himself said, that he should be three days and three nights in the grave, as Jonah was the type thereof, who was the same length of time in the body of the whale. But how does this prophecy agree with the event, as it is recorded by the evangelists? From the sixth hour, that is, twelve o’clock, on Friday, till early on Sunday morning, was Christ in the grave, being a space of about thirty-eight hours, instead of seventy-two, as it should have been if Christ’s prophecy were fulfilled. Luke begins his conclusive chapter thus: “Upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning,” &c., thereby indicating it was morning. But Matthew says, “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn,” &c., intending to represent that it was not yet Sunday morning, but Saturday night still.

Matthew’s angel was seated on a stone outside the door of the sepulchre; which stone, with his own spiritual fingers, this divine messenger had rolled away. But, in opposition to this, Luke describes two angels standing inside the sepulchre.[10]

Matthew’s angel tells the women they shall see Jesus in Galilee, and, lo! they meet him almost outside the tomb. Then Christ, by appointment, according to Matthew, meets his disciples at the top of a mountain in Galilee; howbeit, some doubted. Luke represents him appearing to the eleven as they sate at meat in Jerusalem; he then says that Jesus led them out as far as Bethany, and blessed them, and was taken from them. Matthew does not actually say that Jesus was taken from them on the summit of this mountain; but by Christ’s parting address, and by the abrupt conclusion, he evidently means to infer that it was thence their pretended Redeemer was snatched away.

Illustration of Jesus’s crucifixion from Eugene Sue’s Mysteries of the People


Thus, then, are these infamous tales of pretended miracles and imaginary visions proved unfounded and untrue, by the very internal evidence they themselves afford. They have been fathered upon a set of men who never existed; or if they did exist, only lent themselves to an imposition, which was to redound to their own immediate advantage and profit. The book I have here written, I challenge all the sophists and theologians of the present day to refute; and resting certain that the inconsistencies and incongruities existing in the book called the Bible will some day be recognised by all nations which now profess Christianity, it is my fervent and constant hope that others will, like myself, and like Mr. Paine before me, lend their abilities to expose the absurdities of the Christian creed, and to root out of the hearts of men the errors and darkness that have long there existed.

One word more. Should this little volume meet with the approbation and favour of those thinking few, who profess the creed of Deism, and exemplify their superior sense and understanding by casting off the impositions of priests and churchmen, my labours will not have been vainly bestowed, and I shall remain grateful and satisfied. Nor will my endeavours to expose the imposition, which has now for eighteen hundred years existed in the world, rest here. Were this volume to be received, as I before expressed myself, with the favour and countenance of some few whose sentiments and opinions coincide with mine, I shall avail myself, but not, I hope, presumptively, of their kind approbation, and shall follow up this publication with another volume of arguments derived from another source, to prove the deceit of our ancestors in handing us down impious and absurd works, with the title of the WORD OF GOD blazoned on their pages. Not that the creed of Deism requires any further supports or any other arguments to maintain its truth, than what have been already afforded and advanced in its favour; but that those who, after the perusal of this and the like works, remain still sceptical, and hover in vacillation and doubt between two creeds, may have as many opportunities given them of conviction and conversion as possible.

Gentle reader, farewell.


[1] Original citation: G.W.M. Reynolds, The Errors of the Christian Religion Exposed, by a Comparison of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (London: Richard Carlile, 1832).

[2] The text in the original book reads as follows: “At what time Ahaz was king of Judah.”

[3] I leave out the nonsense of calling the child’s name Immanuel, as it proves nothing ; for neither Christ nor Isaiah’s son was so called, and the meaning of the word is applicable to both.

[4] The Hebrew word for virgin also signifies young woman.

[5] According to Matthew, Herod then did not put John to death, for Herod is dead at this time—not so according to Luke.

[6] Perhaps I had better add, for the information of some few of my readers, that the Evangelist John, and the Baptist, were not one and the same person.

[7] “And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep than of the ninety-nine which went not astray.” Also, see Luke, chap. xv, verse 4.

[8] So-called.

[9] If he were hanged, how, in the name of common sense, could he speak?

[10] That the reader may continue his comparisons farther still, I would advise 42, him to read Mark’s and John’s account of these circumstances.

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